A Revocation of Power of Attorney is a legal document that cancels or revokes a Power of Attorney. In other words, a Revocation of Power of Attorney is written confirmation that a principal (the person who appointed power in a Power of Attorney) no longer wants or needs their attorney-in-fact (the person who was appointed power in a Power of Attorney, sometimes called an agent or donor) to act on their behalf.
How is a Power of Attorney revoked?

Until an attorney-in-fact’s powers are properly revoked, they can continue to legally act for the principal. To cancel a Power of Attorney, the principal can create a document called a Revocation of Power of Attorney or create a new Power of Attorney that indicates the previous Power of Attorney is revoked.

A principal can rescind a Power of Attorney at any time, even if the Power of Attorney has a specified end date, so long as the principal is competent and the attorney-in-fact is notified. Third parties (such as a bank or the Land Titles Office) should also be notified of the revocation.

In addition, if the Power of Attorney was registered (which means it was filed with a certain agency such as the Land Titles Office), the revocation must also be registered.

When should I revoke my Power of Attorney?

There are several reasons why someone would want to cancel their Power of Attorney:

The Power of Attorney is not needed anymore: Perhaps the principal is now able to act for themselves, or the Power of Attorney was created for a specific purpose that’s now finished. In both circumstances, the Power of Attorney is no longer needed and should be cancelled to stop the attorney-in-fact from making decisions in the future.

The attorney-in-fact is not fit to act for the principal: For instance, if it is discovered that the attorney-in-fact is untrustworthy or careless, the principal may decide to revoke the Power of Attorney and appoint someone to act on their behalf.

The attorney-in-fact can no longer act: For example, if the attorney-in-fact moves to another country, it may not be practical or possible for them to keep acting for the principal.

The principal wishes to appoint someone else as their attorney-in-fact: For instance, if your attorney-in-fact passes away or you’ve named your spouse as your attorney-in-fact and you divorce, you will need to appoint someone new to handle your affairs. That said, in some states, such as Alabama, a Power of Attorney is automatically revoked if your spouse is your attorney-in-fact and you divorce.

Do I need to explain why I revoked my Power of Attorney?

No, you do not need to offer an explanation. A principal only needs to inform their attorney-in-fact of the revocation and does not need to explain why they chose to revoke the attorney-in-fact’s powers.

Can a Power of Attorney be irrevocable?

Irrevocable Powers of Attorney are uncommon. However, a Power of Attorney can be “binding”, meaning the principal’s ability to revoke the Power of Attorney is limited. This is usually done by including a certain clause in the document.

In most instances, as long as the principal is mentally competent, a Power of Attorney can be revoked at any time, even if there is a different specified termination date in the document.

Can a Power of Attorney be revoked if the principal is incompetent?

An Ordinary Power of Attorney automatically ends if the principal is found to be incompetent (meaning they are mentally incapacitated and not capable of making their own decisions).

A Durable Power of Attorney remains in effect even if the principal is mentally incapacitated. For this reason, it is essential to choose a trustworthy, capable attorney-in-fact.

Why does a Power of Attorney need to be revoked in writing?

It is important to get legal documents in writing as evidence of that legal document’s existence and terms, and a Revocation of Power of Attorney is no different.

Moreover, third parties (such as a bank or insurance company) usually require proof that a Power of Attorney was revoked and in fact, could allow the attorney-in-fact to continue acting until they are advised of the revocation in writing.

Why does an attorney-in-fact need to be notified of revocation?

An attorney-in-fact is required to comply with the principal’s directives. This means if they are told their powers are revoked, they must not act any longer.

Moreover, they may be liable for any potential damages that result from their conduct.

It is important to inform your attorney-in-fact that the Power of Attorney and their powers are revoked.

How do I tell my attorney-in-fact that their powers are revoked?

An attorney-in-fact must be informed of the revocation in writing, but there is no specific procedure on how to do it.

You can provide the written revocation in person, by mail, or through email, so long as you have proof that the attorney-in-fact was indeed informed. It’s usually best to send your Revocation of Power of Attorney using registered mail, which offers proof of delivery, or include a read receipt with your email to verify that your attorney-in-fact actually received the document. It is not recommended to provide your attorney-in-fact with the revocation in person if you’re revoking the Power of Attorney because the attorney-in-fact is untrustworthy.

Can my attorney-in-fact revoke his or her powers in a Power of Attorney?

An attorney-in-fact can decline to act for any reason. However, that is not technically a “revocation”.

If your attorney-in-fact declines to act, the other attorney-in-fact (in a joint situation) or the substitute (if one is named) takes over. Alternatively, you will need to appoint a new attorney-in-fact.

Can my attorney-in-fact revoke another attorney-in-fact’s powers?

No. Even if one attorney-in-fact has authority to make legal decisions without consulting the other attorney-in-fact (i.e. in a joint and independent situation), only a principal can revoke a Power of Attorney. This is because the principal is the person who has given authority for someone else to act on their behalf, and an attorney-in-fact cannot invalidate the principal’s wishes.

In situations when a principal with a Durable Power of Attorney and two attorneys-in-fact is incapacitated, the courts would revoke Power of Attorney, if revocation is required. The attorney-in-fact can file the court application but cannot revoke another attorney-in-fact’s powers themselves.

What makes a Revocation of Power of Attorney valid?

A Revocation of Power of Attorney must plainly state that the Power of Attorney is revoked and include:

  • The principal’s name
  • The attorney-in-fact’s name
  • The date the Power of Attorney took effect
  • The date the Power of Attorney is revoked

To make their revocation valid, the principal must:

  • Have the revocation witnessed by a notary
  • Provide a copy of the Revocation to their attorney-in-fact (and ask them to return any copies of the Power of Attorney)
  • Provide a copy of the Revocation to any third parties (such as a bank) who may have used the Power of Attorney
  • Provide a copy of the Revocation to any agency where the Power of Attorney has been recorded, such as the County Clerk or Land Titles Office
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